The Ruler and Society (2)

The Ruler and Society (2)

Let the dearest of your affairs be those which are middlemost in rightfulness,(1) most inclusive in justice and most comprehensive in (establishing) the content of the subjects. For the discontent of the common people invalidates the content of favorites, and the discontent of favorites is pardoned at (the achievement of) the content of the masses. Moreover, none of the subjects is more burdensome upon the ruler in ease and less of a help to him in trial than his favorites. (None are) more disgusted by equity, more importunate in demands, less grateful upon bestowal, slower to pardon (the ruler upon his) withholding (favor) and more deficient in patience at the misfortunes of time than the favorites. Whereas the support of religion, the solidarity of Muslims and preparedness in the face of the enemy lie only with the common people of the community, so let your inclination and affection be toward them. Let the farthest of your subjects from you and the most hateful to you be he who most seeks out the faults of men.

For men possess faults, which the ruler more than anyone else should conceal. So do not uncover those of them which are hidden from you, for it is only incumbent upon you to remedy what appears before you. God will judge what is hidden from you. So veil imperfection to the extent you are able; God will veil that of yourself which you would like to have veiled from your subjects. Loose from men the knot of every resentment, sever from yourself the cause of every animosity, and ignore all that which does not become your station. Never hasten to believe the slanderer, for the slanderer is a deceiver, even if he seems to be a sincere advisor.
Bring not into your consultation a miser, who might turn you away from liberality and promise you poverty;(2) nor a coward, who might enfeeble you in your affairs; nor a greedy man, who might in his lust deck out oppression to you as something fair. Miserliness, cowardliness, and greed are diverse temperaments which have in common distrust in God.(3)
Truly the worst of your viziers are those who were the viziers of the evil (rulers) before you and shared with them in their sins. Let them not be among your retinue, for they are aides of the sinners and brothers of the wrongdoers. You will find the best of substitutes for them from among those who possess the like of their ideas and effectiveness but are not encumbrance by the like of their sins and crimes; who have not aided a wrongdoer in his wrongs nor a sinner in his sins.

These will be a lighter burden upon you, a better aid, more inclined toward you in sympathy and less intimate with people other than you. So choose these men as your special companions in privacy and at assemblies. Then let the most influential among them be he who speaks most to you with the bitterness of the truth and supports you least in activities which God dislikes in His friends, however this strikes your pleasure. Cling to men of piety and veracity. Then accustom them not to lavish praise upon you nor to (try to) gladden you by (attributing to you) a vanity you did not do,(4) for the lavishing of abundant praise causes arrogance and draws (one) close to pride.
Never let the good-doer and the evil-doer possess an equal station before you, for that would cause the good-doer to abstain from his good-doing and habituate the evil-doer to his evil-doing. Impose upon each of them what he has imposed upon himself.(5)
Know that there is nothing more conducive to the ruler's trusting his subjects than that he be kind towards them, lighten their burdens and abandon coercing them in that in which they possess not the ability. So in this respect you should attain a situation in which you can confidently trust your subjects, for trusting (them) will sever from you lasting strain.(6) And surely he who most deserves your trust is he who has done well when you have tested him, and he who most deserves your mistrust is he who has done badly when you have tested him. Abolish no proper custom (sunnah) which has been acted upon by the leaders of this community, through which harmony has been strengthened and because of which the subjects have prospered. Create no new custom which might in any way prejudice the customs of the past, lest their reward belong to him who originated them, and the burden be upon you to the extent that you have abolished them.
Study much with men of knowledge ('ulama') and converse much with sages (hukama') concerning the consolidation of that which causes the state of your land to prosper and the establishment of that by which the people before you remained strong.(7)

Continue in the article: ( The Ruler and Society (3) )



1. According to Ibn Abi-l-Hadid, this sentence is based upon the following Quranic verse: "The devil promises you poverty and bids you unto indecency; but God promises you His pardon and His bounty" (2:268). He explains that the commentators of the Quran say that here "indecency" (al-fahsha') means "miserliness" (al-bukhl), and that the meaning of "promises you poverty" is that he makes you believe you will become poor if you are generous with your wealth (vol. I7, p. 4I).

2. Ibn Abi-l-Hadid comments that if man trusts God with certainty and sincerity, he will know that his life span, his daily provision, his wealth and his poverty are foreordained and that nothing occurs but by God's decree (vol. I7, p. 4I). Ibn Maytham points out "distrust in God begins with lack of knowledge (marifah) of Him." A person ignorant of His generosity and bounty will not know that He rewards what is expended in His path; hence he will be miserly in order to avoid poverty. He makes similar remarks concerning the qualities of cowardliness and greed.

3. According to Ibn-Maytham this sentence is part of the description of those favorites who should be most influential. It means that the ruler "should train and discipline them by forbidding them from praising him lavishly or trying to make him happy by a false statement in which they attribute to him an act which he did not do and by this attribution cause him to be blameworthy." He then quotes the following verse of the Quran: "Reckon not that those who rejoice in what they have brought, and love to be praised for what they have not done-do not reckon them secure from chastisement" (3:I88).

4. "The evil-doer has imposed upon himself worthiness for punishment and the good-doer worthiness for reward" (Muhammad 'Abduh, vol. 3, p. 98).

5. Ibn Abi-l-Hadid comments on this passage as follows: "Whoever does good toward you will trust you and whoever does evil will shy away from you. This is because when you do well to someone and repeat it, you will come to believe that he likes you, and this belief will in turn lead to your liking him, for man by his very nature likes anyone who likes him. Then when you like him, you will feel secure with him and trust him. The reverse is true when you do evil toward someone . . ." (vol. I7, p. 47).

6. "He commands him to multiply his study with the men of knowledge, i.e., he should increase his study of the injunctions of the Shar'iah and the laws of religion; and he should increase his discussions with sages, or those whose knowledge is from God Himself (al-'arifun billah) and who know the secrets of His servants and His land" (Ibn Maytham).

7. "He commands him to multiply his study with the men of knowledge, i.e., he should increase his study of the injunctions of the Shar'iah and the laws of religion; and he should increase his discussions with sages, or those whose knowledge is from God Himself (al-'arifun billah) and who know the secrets of His servants and His land" (Ibn Maytham).